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After a strong end to last season, resulting in a 10th-placed finish in League One, Gillingham will have headed into the new campaign with optimism, but they have not enjoyed a strong start.
Steve Evans‘s men have won just two of their opening 12 league outings, sitting in 19th spot with a disappointing tally of 11 points as a result.
After seemingly improving with a run of three league games without a defeat, the Gills now come into Saturday’s game on the back of three straight losses in all competitions, as they lost 2-0 to Wigan Athletic and Ipswich Town in League One and the EFL Cup respectively.
Their slump continued on Saturday, as they went down with a whimper against title-chasing Wycombe Wanderers, with early goals from Garath McCleary and Brandon Hanlan seeing the Chairboys cruise to a 2-0 victory.
Now in need of an upturn in form to get away from the drop zone, Evans will hope for a reaction from his side on Saturday, but they face a particularly difficult task as Sunderland arrive looking to return to winning ways.
John Akinde and Vadaine Oliver should continue to lead the line for Gillingham, with the support of Danny Lloyd, who netted an important goal in their Cambridge United.Despite the disappointing manner of their defeat to Wycombe, Evans is unlikely to make too many changes, with Daniel Adshead, Alex MacDonald and Kyle Dempsey expected to remain in the engine room in front of the defensive pairing of Max Ehmer and Jack Tucker.
Sunderland will be boosted by the return of their international players, with Tom Flanagan, Callum Doyle and Dennis Cirkin all available for selection.
They are not without several concerns though, with Corry Evans and Nathan Broadhead set to miss out, while Lynden Gooch and Aiden McGeady are both doubts and may not be back in time for Saturday’s game.
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Defender Niall Huggins has also been ruled out, although Luke O’Nien is set to start after an injury concern.Ross Stewart will continue to lead the line, having started the season in style with seven goals in the opening 10 league games.
Gillingham possible starting lineup:
Cumming; McKenzie, Ehmer, Tucker, Tutonda; Dempsey, Adshead, MacDonald; Lloyd; Oliver, Akinde
Sunderland possible starting lineup:
Hoffmann; Winchester, Flanagan, Wright, Cirkin; O’Nien, Embleton; O’Brien, Pritchard, Dajaku; Stewart